Let's Blow Up Your Quarter-Life Crisis

We asked work-life guru Jon Acuff what to do when reality hits.

I would rather binge-watch Netflix than do just about anything else.

That’s a terrible opening sentence to an article that’s supposed to motivate you to have an amazing year, but it’s true.

If the command to “Pray without ceasing” was actually “Watch Netflix without ceasing,” my holiness would get me a ticket on the straight-shot-to-heaven express.

It’s just too easy. Every time I finish an episode of a show, Netflix beckons me, “How about we go another round?” I can’t help myself. Minutes become hours become nights spent in the warm glow of content galloping across my eyeballs.

The strange thing is that I’ve never felt better after. I’ve never ended a binge-watching session and thought, “You know what? My life is really going places! That four hours of straight television left me renewed and invigorated.”

If anything, it makes me feel closer to a mid-life crisis.

You might be too young for a “mid-life” crisis—the sports-car-buying, terrible-decision-making season that hits people in their 40s or 50s. Fear not, though, we’ve invented a new one for you: the quarter-life crisis.

No word yet on if people in their 60s experience a “three-quarter-life crisis,” but give us time. When Jay-Z gets that old and declares 60 the new 40, we’ll find a way to come up with an additional crisis.

You won’t find one thing at 25 or at 35 or at 45 that you’ll do for the rest of your life. You’re going to do a lot of different things in the coming years.

Until then, we’ve only got your garden variety mid-life and quarter-life to deal with. Maybe you’re not at full-on crisis level right now. You just feel a little stuck. The job you have isn’t the job you want. You thought you’d have more of your story figured out by now. It seems like everyone else has their lives put together perfectly.

We all feel that way sometimes, but usually not in January. We crush January. We’re going to get in shape, find a new job and eat so much kale in January! Only, deep down, we know February is coming and after it, 10 other resolution-killing months.

How do you shake yourself loose if you’re stuck? How do you prevent even getting stuck in the first place?

Here are three simple ways to blow up your quarter-life crisis in 2016:

Stop Trying to Find Your Perfect Calling

Let’s declare 2016 the year you give your search for a calling a rest. I know that, next to your keys, your calling is the most popular thing to look for.

There are hundreds of books and blogs and motivational speakers that promise to help you “find your calling,” “discover your passion” and “figure out your purpose” in life. Some of them are great, but most of them are terrible, and if you’re not careful, you’ll get sucked into a Sharknado-like vortex that wastes your entire year.

There are a number of reasons trying to find your calling is such a useless exercise. First of all, it tends to promise you that there’s only one calling out there for you. That perhaps, if you try hard enough, you’ll stumble through the woods of your life into a clearing. There, in a perfectly green glade next to a LaCroix sparkling water river, will be your narwhal of purpose.

It was hard, you had to constantly reference Philippians 4:13 on your epic journey, but you made it! You found the one purpose you’ll have forever.

But that’s ridiculous. You won’t find one thing at 25 or at 35 or at 45 that you’ll do for the rest of your life. You’re going to do a lot of different things in the coming years.

The second reason searching for your calling is so toxic is that it tends to ruin the job you have right now. The minute something difficult comes up at work, you’ll think, “Is this really my calling? Is this the job I was knitted in the womb to do?”

As you soul-search for the answer, the expense report you were supposed to file will go ignored. The meetings you have to attend will seem unnecessary and annoying. When seen through the “find your calling” glasses, a lot of things your job requires will frustrate you.

If someone is paying you money to do a job, your paycheck is your calling for that season. You don’t need to go down long, luxurious rabbit trails. Just do your job.

The third and final reason “finding your calling” is such a dangerously wasteful expedition is that if you’re a Christian, you already have one. You already have dozens, in fact. The Bible is full of callings for you.

Make this the year you stop binge-watching television and start binge-experiencing beauty.

If you feel stuck right now and don’t know what your calling is, try “Love your neighbor” on for size. Already absolutely crushing that one? Graduate to “Love your enemy.”

Both of those feel too hard? Start with the call to focus on the noble and beautiful things we’ve been given. God just called you to engage with more art. Make this the year you stop binge-watching television and start binge-experiencing beauty. You’ve got a veritable buffet of answers in the Bible to the question, “What is my calling?” Open it up, pick one and go.

Love Where You Live

When I was writing the book Stuff Christians Like, there was a lady at work I didn’t get along with. Let’s pretend her name is The Terminator. (That wasn’t her name, but if I pick a fake name like “Heather,” at least one of the Heathers I’ve worked with is going to reach out to me on Facebook after she’s read this article.)

I didn’t get along with The Terminator. I avoided her at all costs, gossiped about her and, in general, was a huge jerk to her. One morning, while I wrote a chapter in my book, I prayed, “Lord, please use this book to bless people.” I felt like God immediately responded to me and said, “The Terminator is people.”

Ohhh, body blow!

Sometimes, in our attempt to change our lives, we stand at the window, looking out over the horizon. We pray, “Lord, call me on an adventure! Use the gifts I’ve been given to help people around the world know your love!” We pray for far off people in far off lands and ignore that the room behind us is already full of people—people we work with, people we live with, people we go to church with.

It’s far easier to hope for an adventure “someday” than it is to see the adventure of today. “Someday” doesn’t force us to change our lives. “Someday” doesn’t require us to be kind to people who are difficult. “Someday” doesn’t make us do our jobs as if we’re doing them unto the Lord.

“Someday” doesn’t change the world. The truth is, you’ve already been given a world that needs you.
God’s plan for you might be to take you across the globe on an adventure eventually, but in the meantime, don’t forget you’re already on one.

If you have a job, you’re on an adventure.

If you’re looking for a job, you’re on an adventure.

If you have a family, you’re on an adventure.

If you have friends, you’re on an adventure.

When we get stuck, we lose sight of the places we’re in and the people we’re in them with. We get distracted and miss out on so many amazing things that are happening all around us.

This year, instead of praying for an adventure, admit you’re already on one and jump into it with both feet.

Recognize You Have More opportunities Than Any Other Generation Ever

I don’t know how people wrote motivational articles in the 1960s. I know they did, because magazines existed then, but without the bevy of opportunities the Internet offers us, what advice could they really give? They couldn’t tell you that if you have a passion, you should plug into a community built around that interest online.

They couldn’t tell you that if you’ve got a new idea, there are ways to take classes online. They couldn’t tell you to reach out to an expert on Twitter who is prone to answering questions from curious people fighting a quarter-life crisis.

Your parents’ world was smaller. They were bound to geography when they wanted to find a new job. You’re not, with telecommuting booming and freelance opportunities available regardless of your physical address.

God’s plan for you might be to take you across the globe on an adventure eventually, but in the meantime, don’t forget you’re already on one.

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If your parents got stuck and wanted to learn something new, they needed a car to get to the library or an encyclopedia that was out of date the second it was printed.

Not you. Thanks to Google, you no longer have the option of saying, “I don’t know how to do ________.” You have access to tools that make the Back to the Future hoverboards we never got in 2015 look absolutely primitive. The gatekeepers are all gone, except for the one who can still cause damage if you’re not careful: you. Recognize the opportunities you have and start taking advantage of them.

You should never end a list of items with a list, but these are heady times, my friends. And there are two things I know about you even if we’ve never met:

1. You’re capable of more than you think.
2. It’s going to take more work than you think.

The first one is true because everyone I’ve ever worked with was surprised by what they could accomplish if they really tried. We tend to be terrible judges of our own talents, abilities and futures.

The second is true because anything that matters takes hard work. Our binge-watching might be instant, but our lives won’t be. You’ll have to work hard to get a job you want. You’ll have to spend years and years to become an expert in your field. Looking up a Bible verse that calls you to something is easy, it’s the living it out that gets difficult.

You’ve got a whole year to work on it, though. And you’ve got a lot more free time now that you’re not trying to find a perfect calling.

Fight the quarter-life, mid-life and maybe even eventual three-quarter-life crisis. Life is too fun to stay stuck.

Top Comments

Leigh-Anne Spilman-Cooper

1

Leigh-Anne Spilman-Cooper commented…

Thank you Jon for speaking truth into my life, when I've been having a bit of a "quarter life crisis" for about the last year or two. I am realizing God has a lot to teach me right where I am, and I need to be open to hearing from the Holy Spirit in just the everyday. Do I trust God to work through me in the very ordinary circumstances I am in? If not, how will I ever be able to handle "big" things? I also DO have His Will right in front of me, in the commands of the Bible. Thanks also for pointing out that we do live in a unique period of history when so many jobs, opportunities, knowledge is before us, that so many people 's heads are swirling with confusion over Calling. This was very timely advice for me!!

Destinee Hodge

1

Destinee Hodge commented…

Thank you for this. It challenged me to see my current life status as an opportunity not a problem.

2 Comments

Leigh-Anne Spilman-Cooper

1

Leigh-Anne Spilman-Cooper commented…

Thank you Jon for speaking truth into my life, when I've been having a bit of a "quarter life crisis" for about the last year or two. I am realizing God has a lot to teach me right where I am, and I need to be open to hearing from the Holy Spirit in just the everyday. Do I trust God to work through me in the very ordinary circumstances I am in? If not, how will I ever be able to handle "big" things? I also DO have His Will right in front of me, in the commands of the Bible. Thanks also for pointing out that we do live in a unique period of history when so many jobs, opportunities, knowledge is before us, that so many people 's heads are swirling with confusion over Calling. This was very timely advice for me!!

Destinee Hodge

1

Destinee Hodge commented…

Thank you for this. It challenged me to see my current life status as an opportunity not a problem.

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